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HTC ThunderBolt launches as first LTE phone

Matt Hamblen, Computerworld | March 17, 2011
Sales of HTC's ThunderBolt smartphone kicked off Thursday, but it isn't clear that faster speeds it offers on Verizon Wireless's LTE (Long Term Evolution) network are exciting buyers, possibly because of their concerns about battery life.

Wirefly, an online seller of phones and wireless plans, began taking pre-orders for the device on Tuesday at $199.99, and later said its first day had broken previous first-day sales records by 400%, noting that the ThunderBolt accounted for one-fourth of sales on Tuesday.

Verizon has kept its $29.99 per month price for unlimited data with the ThunderBolt, but it isn't clear how long that will last because the carrier is committed to setting up data usage limits.

Wirefly notes on its Web site that the ThunderBolt ships without mobile video calling software from Skype, although Skype is said to have committed Thursday to providing the capability.


HTC ThunderBolt smartphone
HTC's ThunderBolt smartphone.


Analysts have linked potential battery drain to Skype video, since the app would run in the background, tracking signals.

Instead of Skype, ThunderBolt does come with Tango's mobile video calling software installed, which makes use of the device's dual cameras. The phone also features a 4.3-in. touchscreen, and 40GB of total storage.

It is probably too early to judge whether battery life concerns with ThunderBolt turn into actual problems, or how well the phones and batteries will perform in real-life conditions. Wirefly did a thorough video review of application speeds in ThunderBolt apps, but had not thoroughly tested it over LTE.

One lengthy early review by InfoSyncWorld said the battery performance on its ThunderBolt review unit was "very similar" to the HTC Inspire 4G on AT&T's HSPA network, despite ThunderBolt's 1400mAh battery being more than 10% bigger.

"Regardless, the HTC ThunderBolt will definitely need a daily charge, just like any high-end smartphone, and in some cases an additional charge throughout the day will be necessary," InfoSyncWorld said.

Analysts said that many smartphone users are in the practice of connecting a charger to the device before going to bed, although they noted that 6.3 hours of use as stated in the specs won't take many workers through a long day.

"Battery life is an issue in any of these smartphones," said Phil Asmundson, an analyst at Deloitte. "It's great if I remember to plug it in every night, but it sucks if I don't. Anything they can do to improve battery life improves customer satisfaction."

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said it isn't completely clear how much LTE chips will drain batteries. "Early indications are that the LTE chipsets draw more power than older chipsets," similar to when phones upgraded from 2G to 3G, he said. "LTE will likely cause some power issues in early-gen devices."


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